Communication and social interaction are difficulties faced by persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Therefore, can they benefit from interactive learning environments? Research has provided some evidence in this regard. Mason et al. (2014) found that communicative interactions of students with ASD increased after the implementation of peer-mediated social skills programs in informal contexts of interaction. Carter et al. (2016) analyzed peer support arrangements for students with ASD in high school and found that these students increased their social interactions with peers, while academic engagement was increased or maintained for most of the students. Ferguson et al. (2020) analyzed language production and exposure to language in preschool students with ASD in different educational settings and found that children in inclusive classrooms received more verbal input from peers and produced more speech as compared to students in autism-only classrooms or mixed disability classrooms. Therefore, according to research, students with ASD can benefit from inclusive interactive learning environments and receive positive impacts precisely in those areas in which they have the most difficulties: social interaction and communication. Research also suggests the importance of designing and providing the necessary supports, and especially considering the implementation of peer support strategies.
Carter, E. W., Gustafson J. R., Sreckovic, M. A., Dykstra, J. R., Pierce, N. P., Bord, A., et al. (2017). Efficacy of Peer Support Interventions in General Education Classrooms for High School Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Remedial and Special Education: RASE 38, 207–221. doi: 10.1177/0741932516672067
Ferguson, E. F., Nahmias, A. S., Crabbe, S., Liu, T., Mandell, D. S., & Parish-Morris, J. (2020). Social language opportunities for preschoolers with autism: Insights from audio recordings in urban classrooms. Autism 24, 1232–1245. doi:10.1177/1362361319894835.
Mason, R., Kamp, D., Turcotte, A., Cox, S., Feldmiller, S., & Miller, T. (2014). Peer mediation to increase communication and interaction at recess for students with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8(3), 334-344. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2013.12.014